Maddon discusses luxury of bullpen roles

Maddon discusses luxury of bullpen roles

WASHINGTON -- Losing a closer can make it tough for a team, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. The Nationals are about to find out after right-hander Jonathan Papelbon went on the disabled list on Tuesday with a right intercostal strain.

"When you have [a closer], it's easier somewhat to figure out the rest of the game," Maddon said. "When you're playing without a closer, and it's all matchup-based, you're always trying to match up to that point."

Papelbon is 16-for-18 in save situations this season. Nationals manager Dusty Baker said on Tuesday he wasn't sure who would take over the role.

"If there's any real positive to having definite seventh-, eighth- and ninth-inning guys with the lead, it's that they know to get up, get ready, get in," Maddon said. "The matchup guys, especially situational lefties, you could abuse them by warming them up and not playing them."

The Cubs haven't needed closer Hector Rondon much this season as they've surged to the top of the National League Central. Rondon is 11-for-11 in save situations. But the Cubs have been adding arms, including Joe Nathan, Joel Peralta and, most recently, R.J. Alvarez.

"You expect them to play significant roles at some point," Maddon said. "You always have to anticipate something will go awry, it just does. [Pitching] is such a hard spot to get people you like just by snapping your fingers."

Maddon said the Nationals could have someone step up and claim the closer's job while Papelbon is out.

"They've got some good arms," Maddon said. "But it's never comfortable not having that guy, because then you have to redefine everything."

Worth noting

• The Cubs have agreed with the Eugene Emeralds on a two-year player development contract extension through the 2018 season. The current agreement with the Class A Short-Season team ran through the 2016 season.

"From first-class facilities to a dedicated front-office staff, the Eugene ballclub has proved to be an outstanding partner for the Cubs' organization, and we are pleased to extend this agreement," said Jason McLeod, the Cubs' senior vice president, scouting and player development.

The affiliation between Eugene and Chicago began in 2015. Eugene was previously a Cubs affiliate during the 1999-2000 seasons.

• Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler will host a youth baseball camp for boys and girls in grades one through eight on Aug. 15 at Timothy Christian High School in Elmhurst, Ill. For information, go to DexterFowlerCamp.com.

Fowler, who started playing baseball when he was 5 years old, said he still remembers participating in John Smoltz's baseball camp in Atlanta. Fowler just didn't expect to someday face Smoltz, and he reminded the Hall of Fame pitcher about the camp.

"[Smoltz] said, 'Either you got up here [to the big leagues] real quick, or I'm real old,'" Fowler said.

• One of Maddon's favorite shows, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," is coming back for a ninth season on HBO. Comedian Jeff Garlin, who is a Cubs fan, has invited Maddon to be on the show.

"We're all happy it's coming back -- it's still the best," Maddon said.

Told that the show did its filming in January and February, Maddon said he could find time. What about Spring Training?

"Davey's got it," Maddon said of bench coach Dave Martinez.

Maddon didn't want to play himself.

"I want to play Larry David -- or I'll be Bernie Sanders, one of the two," Maddon said.

• Maddon had lunch with Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta, who is from Maddon's hometown, on Tuesday.

"I felt very comfortable -- it was almost like being with the media," Maddon joked.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.